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  • Nadia Tsai (Puran Priti Kaur)

Yoga for Trauma Recovery

Research tells us that body-based practices are necessary to release the stored trauma from the body. Yoga has been shown to improve stress and emotional regulation. The ability to regulate stress responses and emotional states is essential for an individual's overall well-being. Yoga can allow for post-traumatic growth by repatterning the response of the psoas muscle and decreasing sympathetic nervous system drive.

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event. Most of us are aware of the obvious traumas - a traumatic loss, victim of a violent crime, experience in war, physical/emotional/sexual abuse, but there are less obvious sources of trauma. These can include a divorce, loss of a job, multiple medical procedures, being bullied as a child or an adult, or generational trauma. The list of situations that can leave long lasting affects on the mind, body, and spirit are endless.

Dr. Bessel A. van der Kolk explains the effects of trauma best. "In trauma, the body's alarm systems turn on and then never quite turn off. We experience the intense suffering of never truly feeling relaxed, at ease in life, always on guard, with the primitive brain constantly scanning for threat or opportunity." 

Studies have shown that emotional pain and traumatic experiences can be "stored" in the body long after the exposure to the traumatic event ended. Trauma memories are often stored somatically. Somatic memory is the term used to describe trauma effects held in the structure and physiology of the body.  

Trauma affects the ability to live life to the fullest. The ability to receive, process, enjoy, as well as, tolerating pain becomes impaired.

As Kundalini Yogis we view trauma and Post Traumatic Stress as a physiological condition. Meaning the mental health and behavioral effects characteristic of Post Traumatic Stress and Trauma are a result of dysregulation of the physiology of the body. 

How Can Kundalini Yoga Help Reduce the Symptoms of Trauma?

Kundalini Yoga is a more traditional multicomponent contemplative yoga practice style.

Each Kundalini Yoga Class Includes:

  1. Specific Postures and/or Movement Sequences

  2. Breath Regulation Practices

  3. Deep Relaxation

  4. Meditative Techniques

Kundalini Yoga is a yoga of prana. Prana is the energy that exists within and around the physical body. It is the vital life force that sustains life everywhere. In other eastern practices that work with life force energy, prana is known as qi (Qi Gong), chi (Tai Chi), ki (Reiki).

Pranayam (breathing practices) is the way into the vagal system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The vagal system, which includes the Vagus Nerve, is a complex system of neural pathways, hormones, and immune regulation throughout the body, whose main job is "listening" and constantly scanning the sensory system for safety. The parasympathetic nervous system is the rest and digest part of the nervous system. Different breath regulation practices have a different physiological effect depending on what type of breathing is emphasized. Slow rhythmic breathing, also known as, diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing, and abdominal breathing, has been shown to have marked effects on psychophysiology and respiratory function. Alternate nostril breathing has been associated with measurable psychophysiological effects that include increased parasympathetic nervous system activity.

When it comes to somatic memory, the psoas muscle is the area known to store traumatic stress. The psoas muscle is the most important skeletal muscle in the human body, as it is the only muscle that connects the upper body to the lower body. These pair of muscles (originating on either side of the spine and attaching onto the femur) are very important for our posture, our ability to move, and to stabilize two important joints. In Kundalini Yoga, we use rhythmic movement, which is uniquely helpful in moving the deep inner muscles, including the psoas muscle.

Meditation is a relaxed, focus of attention on a mantra or the breath, or observation of attention. It is that cycle of "thoughts" and then bringing yourself back to your focus. With practice you improve your ability to bring yourself back to your focus, and with time you can hold your attention for longer. Research shows that meditation practices have been shown to beneficially impact a wide variety of cognitive and health related functions including attention, interoceptive awareness (noticing the bodily sensations without attaching meaning to it), somatosensory processing, self-regulation, stress, immune function, blood pressure, chronic pain, and sleep.

Deep relaxation is essential to recovering from the effects of traumatic stress. Relaxation is essential for healing the nervous system and glandular system. If we can regularly get to a place of inner stillness, the body has a chance to repair itself and restore it's natural rhythm.

Join us for our upcoming Yoga for Trauma Recovery. This is an evidence-based 10- week kundalini yoga program supporting people with trauma and/or post-traumatic stress response. This specialized yoga program addresses the underlying cause of the trauma symptoms and helps you to restore, recover, and renew rhythmic strength and reconnect with your original self.

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